Skip to main content

Full text of "The manufacture and properties of iron and steel"

See other formats

BELGIUM.                                                   591
not follow that she only does one-sixth as much. There is a large profit for the manufacturer, particularly in the great number of cases where some human intelligence and some human hand must be at a certain post, and where the grade of the intelligence and the strength of the hand are of little moment. There are multitudes of positions in a steel works where this condition obtains, and in Belgium women fill-such positions, receiving a mere pittance. They do a very large share of the work that we call "general labor." About ten years ago Belgium passed laws regulating the employment of women and children in mines, and there has been a marked advance in this direction. In 1870 there were from 8000 to 9000 women and girls working underground in the coal mines. In 1889 there were 3700. In 1891 the women and girls constituted four per cent, of all the working force under ground, while in 1899 they formed only a fraction of one per cent. Of the over-ground workers the women and girls constituted 25.1 per cent, in 1891, 24.3 per cent, in 1899, and 23.1 per cent, in 1900. Of the over-ground workers at these mines in 1900, in a total of 34,075 people, there were 3787 girls between the ages of 16 and 20, or 11.1 per cent, of the whole. In addition to these there were 2589 girls between '14 and 16, a proportion of 7.6 per cent., so that 18.6 per cent, of the entire force was made up of girls between 14 and 20 years of age.
Considering the works above and below ground together for the. year 1899, concerning which I have the full official statistics, there was a total of 125,258 people, of whom there were 6522 girls from. 14 to 20 years of age, or 5.2 per cent. A little calculation from the mortality tables will show that this represents over half of all the girls of that age that would be found in a community containing that number of people, and after allowing for the infirm it will be seen that in the coal-raining communities of Belgium almost all the girls between the ages of 14 and 21 work around the coal mines or coke ovens.*
It is difficult for an American to appreciate what this means until he sees the conditions on the spot and until he has known what it is to work day and night shift out .doors in all weather and in all seasons. It seems inevitable that the same law of
* I have calculated these figures from the official report of the.Directeiir G-eaeral das Mines for 1899.                                                              ,